The Board of Education in Bedford Central School District announced last week the formation of a new Bond Finance Advisory Committee, a significant step toward creating a BCSD Bond Capital Facilities Plan and BCSD Bond program.
“We are at a critical point in the district’s future,” Superintendent Joel Adelberg wrote in an April 23 press release. “The aging of some facilities and systems combined with evolving programmatic needs require investment for BCSD schools to continue to deliver the quality and breadth of learning experiences its students need and the community expects.”
Administrators and members of the Board of Education have been discussing the need for a capital bond referendum project for years, according to meeting minutes available on BoardDocs. It has not undertaken a major bond project since 2013. Records from a Board of Education meeting in December 2018 state: “the District has significant capital project needs” and “considerations may include an analysis of current debt levels and the debt maturity schedule for BCSD, the feasibility of establishing a capital reserve, funds that can be allocated in operational budgets, and the feasibility of future borrowings.”
Last year the BCSD followed through on one of those goals, obtaining voter approval for the establishment of a capital reserve fund. The reserve will be used to pay for the construction, renovation and equipping of district buildings and other facilities. It will be funded through cost-saving measures and unspent funds, and all disbursed funds require voter approval.
According to the most recent 2021-22 budget presentation, the capital reserve fund stands at $100,000. Clearly the district will need greater amounts to fund necessary repairs and improvements in both the short and long term.
The need for a capital bond to address aging infrastructure within BCSD has become progressively more apparent in recent years. A community survey conducted as part of the district’s Long-Range Facilities Plan in winter 2020 found that just 16% of 1,200 respondents felt conditions within the district’s seven buildings exceeded their expectations, 65% said conditions met expectations, and 20% said conditions fell short of expectations.
That news didn’t exactly come as a surprise, considering most of the district’s infrastructure is more than half a century old. The district’s 2016 building conditions survey, required by the New York State Education Department, prioritized nearly $35 million in building improvements over a five-year period.
During a Board of Education meeting earlier this month, board member John Boucher said the 2021 building condition survey, conducted by BBS Architects, prioritized approximately $60 million worth of improvements over the next five years. The five-year plan is intended to be a tool utilized by the district to manage its capital needs. Needs and priorities change regularly as projects are completed or deferred capital items further deteriorate. In a previous board meeting about the building condition survey, Robert Gimigliano, director of buildings and grounds, stated it was “important to assess and preserve the District’s assets and infrastructure needs.”
In a meeting with Capital Markets Advisors LLC about funding options, Mr. Boucher said the district’s finance committee was presented with two bond options — one for a $55 million bond and another for approximately $35 million. Public presentations from both BBS Architects and Capital Markets Advisors are tentatively scheduled for the May 5 board meeting. As part of its charge, the newly established Bond Finance Advisory Committee will be tasked with reviewing these presentations and other information before coming to a consensus on recommendations by Aug. 1.
“We really need to get this work started,” Mr. Boucher said during an April 14 meeting, in terms of “reviewing the facilities together with the architect’s survey and then beginning to socialize it with the community to see what the needs are and the level of the bonds.”
Community members interested in joining the Bond Finance Advisory Committee must submit their applications by Monday, May 3. To access the application or more information, visit bcsdny.org.